A reason to like Christmas

I stopped getting excited about Christmas when I learned the truth about Santa.  But there is one thing I really like about the season–the Smuin Ballet Christmas Show.  Which we got to see last night.

Now you might rightly wonder why there is a Christmas show the week before Thanksgiving, but then you’d have to explain why the Hallmark stores put out the Christmas goods right after July 4th.  Beats the heck out of me.

Nonetheless, there we were, well fed from dinner at Massimo, across the street from the Lesher Center, all snug in our seats for the annual event.

This was, I think, the 7th time we have attended.  It’s part of the season ticket package, and it’s wonderful.  There are some pieces they do every year, there are some that change in and out over time.

The first act is mostly traditional, with classical music and formal ballet.  I’ve always been a big fan of Veni, veni Emmanuel, a quiet piece featuring the women of the company.  The piece is choreographed so that the footfalls of the dancers become an important counterpoint to the music.

Last night, Smuin veteran Erin Yarborough danced Ave Maria, which was Gail’s favorite piece  of the classic section.  We’ve watched her, and spoken to her at the receptions, for years.  Erin is a delight.

After intermission comes “Cool Christmas”, the second act.  Modern music, dance and costuming, with a couple of pieces originally choreographed by Michael Smuin himself that are absolute staples of the show–especially Santa Baby, which is marvelous.

The real reason I love this show, though, is Bells of Dublin,  a solo tap dance presented by Shannon Hurlburt.

Shannon tapping out my favorite

Shannon tapping out my favorite. Photo from the Village Voice


Shannon is the most senior of the danseurs.  He’s 38, about to become a father for the first time, recovering from a torn achilles tendon, and just the greatest tapper you could ever want to watch.  He does this dance every year, in his red outfit with the red and white spectators, and I sit there thrilled.  Then for the next piece, Belles of the Blackville Reel, he is joined by 5 other men and the tap festival continues.  I could just watch 2 hours of that, but the show goes on and builds to the great last performance, White Christmas.  

The Smuin will be in Walnut Creek tonight and Sunday, then moves on to San Francisco, Livermore, Mountain View and Carmel.  Go see it, any show that makes a curmudgeon like me look forward to Christmas must be great.



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